Reporters, photographers and in particular those who work freelance may be asked for proof that they are a genuine working journalist when covering events such as political demonstrations, government press conferences, court reporting and international events. Here is how your trade union can help plus some tips drawn from branch members’ experiences reporting in the Netherlands over 20 years.
The NUJ Press Card
Available free to all staff, freelance and temporary members just apply on-line at https://www.nuj.org.uk/join/presscards/. It is valid for two years and recognised by a host of official bodies such as the police and the army. Though obviously intended for use mainly in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, our experience is that it is recognised in the Netherlands, Belgium and France too.
When applying one has to provide proof of recent work and evidence that at least half of your income is derived from journalism. Temporary members can only receive a card for one year. There is also a student press card for people studying journalism or working for a student newspaper. Associate or retired members are not eligible.
NUJ Membership Card
This is issued free to all members for life. If you have not got one then contact head office. It has your name, signature, NUJ number and date of issue with phone numbers and web pages for NUJ offices on the back. Though this cannot be officially used for press accreditation it can come in useful in practice to allay any doubts that you are a journalist.
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
If you are regularly working in countries other than the UK and Ireland then the NUJ recommends you apply for an IFJ card. This can only be done through your NUJ membership at https://www.nuj.org.uk/forms/application-for-an-nuj-international-press-card/ Do not apply or send money through any other route as a scam was recently been operating. It costs £100 for two years and you will need proof of recent work.
Obviously an IFJ card is the gold standard allowing you to work in any country and particularly in conflict zones. However, if you would rather save the money then the NUJ card is generally recognised in Western Europe.
Nederlands Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ) press card
For those branch members who are also members of the NVJ you can also apply for an NVJ card. It is free for staff (werknemer) or freelance (freelancer) membership and costs €49.95 for people with the basic (basis) membership. All applications are judged on supplying evidence of recent work. The NVJ card is also recognised abroad in the US and in conflict zones. See https://www.nvj.nl/onze-diensten/perskaarten
Trade unions do not give out press cards lightly as they in turn have to negotiate with the different organisations who are being expected to recognise them. It is therefore important only bone fide journalists have them.
That said practice can be very different. Trying to argue your rights with a security heavy or jobsworth particularly if there is any perceived threat to public order may be a waste of precious time. An NUJ press can’t do any harm but often a passport, driving licence or other proof of identity helps too.
In a less challenging environment, especially where organisations actually want journalists to attend rather than keep them away, then simply a membership card plus any recent examples of work, printed out emails or commissioning letters will do the trick. It is also useful for freelancers if the people commissioning you contact the organisers of an event so you are on a press list. Or you yourself can contact organisers in advance tell them you are coming and get a named contact and have a chat.
In all circumstances remain calm, firm, persistent but polite, no matter how justified you may be in your right to attend an event. Charm and good humour will get you further than veiled threats and aggression.